Direct Method and Grammar Translation Method are the two oldest methods for teaching foreign languages. Grammar Translation Method first appeared in the 18th century and was originally used for teaching old languages like Greek, Latin then failed in teaching communication skills. After that, Direct Method was built with the attempts to overcome the weakness of the Grammar Translation Method. As a result of that, there are many differences in the principles of these two methods which will be summarized into three following main ones.
The first and foremost difference between the Direct Method and The Grammar Translation method is the goals of the teachers using them. In Grammar translation Method, the teachers’ fundamental purpose is to help the students read and appreciate literature written in the target language. To be able to do this students have to learn a lot about the grammar rules and vocabularies. On the contrary, the teachers who use the Direct Method intend that the students learn how to communicate in the target language.
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It is very important that the students are believed to think in the target language. In addition, due to the different teaching goals, there is a great disparity in teaching and learning process of the Grammar Translation Method and the Direct Method. In a typical Grammar Translation Method class, students are taught to translate from one language to another. They are also asked to memorize the native language equivalents for the target language vocabulary words. In contrast, the native language should not be used in the classroom.
The students need to associate the meaning and the target language directly. To help the students to do this, the teacher demonstrates the meanings through pictures, realia, or pantomime. In other words, translation is never used in this type of class. Another obvious difference between the two methods is the dealing with grammar. Whereas grammar is taught deductively in the Grammar Translation Method, the Direct method uses an inductively way so the students are given examples and they figure out the rules or generalization from those examples.
It might happen that the explicit grammar rule is never given. In Grammar Translation method, grammar rules are presented with examples. The students are asked to memorize those rules and then apply to other examples and exercises. To conclude, I can rightly say that both methods have advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to the teachers to choose or combine the methods according to their teaching situation so that their students will get the most benefit.
In my own teaching context, I use the principles of the Direct Method more due to the needs of my students. I am teaching a class of international students who come from different countries and their native languages are different from mine. Therefore, translation is impossible. To make the meaning clear, I usually use pictures, realia, or pantomime. The target language is the mean of every communication taking place in the classroom. I believe that this very good environment for their language learning.